It has become apparent that the Cubs are going into a rebuilding mode. The trade that sent Sean Marshall to Cincinnati is likely the first domino to fall and you have to wonder who will be next to go and which young players will get an opportunity to produce. One player who you think is an almost lock to debut in 2012 is center fielder Brett Jackson, the team’s top prospect.
As of right now the Cubs outfield consists of Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd and David DeJesus, hardly a group that would suppress a top prospect. Drafted #31 in 2009, Jackson split time between Double & Triple-A in ’11 hitting .274 with 20 HR, 58 RBI, 84 R and 21 SB.
He had hit a total of 20 HR over his first two seasons in the minor leagues, so fantasy owners definitely have to like seeing him show signs of realizing his power potential. Before we simply write off the breakout due to playing in the Pacific Coast League (10 HR in 185 AB), it’s not like hadn’t shown any signs before.
Splitting time between two levels in 2010 Jackson had 58 extra base hits, including 32 doubles, 14 triples and 12 home runs. It shouldn’t be shocking to see some of those hits start to carry over the fence as he matures. Obviously, we would’ve liked to have seen a few more extra base hits in 2011 (23 doubles and 5 triples), but at least we’ve seen some signs. Maybe he develops into a consistent 20 HR threat and maybe not, but at least he’s shown that he can hit in the 10-15 HR range.
Couple that with his speed (he stole 30 bases in 2010) and you are starting to see a player who would hold fantasy value. In fact, those types of numbers (15 HR and 30 SB) make you think of the Reds’ Drew Stubbs. Unfortunately, the comparisons between Stubbs and Jackson do not end there.
The one major red flag that hangs over Stubbs is his inability to make consistent contact. Last season Stubbs posted a 30.1% strikeout rate and is at 28.9% for his Major League career. Jackson has endured similar problems. Over his minor league career Jackson has posted a 24.0% strikeout rate, a number that generally rises in the Major Leagues.
If he is not going to make consistent contact he is not going to hit for a good average. We’ve seen it with Stubbs, who has a career .251 average. Chances are, we are going to see it with Jackson as well, and it will cap his fantasy appeal.
That’s not to say that he doesn’t have upside and should be ignored. Baseball America recently ranked Jackson as the Cubs’ top prospect and said:
“He has become much more selective at the plate than he was in college, waiting for pitches he can punish and taking walks when pitchers won’t challenge him. Chicago would like to see him get a little more aggressive and attack more often early in the count. He’s not a pure hitter, but he does have a compact swing and doesn’t get himself out by chasing pitches out of the zone. Some scouts think Jackson’s stroke can get too mechanical and believe he swings and misses too much to hit much better than .260 or .270. He pulls off pitches at times, and his strikeout rate spiked to a career-high 30 percent in Triple-A.”
Time will tell exactly how Jackson develops, but at this point we should view his upside as that of Drew Stubbs. That definitely has value and is worth monitoring and stashing in all keeper leagues. However, just know what you are getting yourself into. If you are looking to utilize him make sure you have high upside average hitters elsewhere on your lineup so you can offset his one true negative.
What are your thoughts of Jackson? Do you think he will be a productive option? Where do you see his upside?
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